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Do big telescopes mean bigger findings?

Published: 09th May, 2011 at 00:00
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The bigger the better when it comes to scouring the Universe.

The new Square Kilometre Array telescope (SKA) is set to be the world’s largest radio telescope, and 50 times more sensitive than its predecessor. It will cost £1.3bn, and is likely to be built in Australia or South Africa, but will have its headquarters firmly planted at Jodrell Bank, Cheshire.


The SKA telescope will have a receiving area of one square kilometre, meaning it could pick up a mobile phone signal on Neptune. But why do we need such a huge international piece of equipment?

Why do bigger telescopes mean bigger findings?

  • Bigger telescopes gather more light and produce higher resolution images
  • The introduction of bigger telescopes will allow us to study Earth-sized planets around local stars. This will allow us to determine how rare Earth is and subsequently, how likely Earth-like life is to exist elsewhere in the galaxy
  • Larger telescopes gathering more light will enable astronomers to detect fainter objects that existed further back in the Universe’s history

Could the SKA reveal the origins of the Universe?

  • Perhaps - the hope is that future telescopes, such as the SKA, will be able to see ‘first light’ - when the first stars formed out of the primordial universe’s post-Big Bang mass, roughly 14 billion years ago


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